Critical Studies Student-Led Discussion Series

November 06, 2020

The Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies presents an annual two-day symposium putting graduate students in dialogue with artists, designers, activists, and community leaders. This year discussions will focus on the symposium theme, “Forms of Care: Building the Worlds We Need.”

Leading up to the symposium on November 20 + 21 graduate students from the MA in Critical Studies program will host a series of conversations that are open to all who want to participate.

For those considering an application to join PNCA's graduate school, be sure to RSVP for these events to have your attendance counted toward our 2021 Graduate Engagement Award!

Learn more about the discussions below!

Thursday, November 12th

6:00-7:00 pm pacific

Weather Without Borders: A Discussion of Etel Adnan’s SEASONS

moderated by Kyle Cohlmia

Moderator Bio:

Kyle Cohlmia was born in Stillwater, OK. She received a B.A. in Art History and Italian with a minor in English from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Instruction and Curriculum at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Kyle has worked at various art museums and galleries including the Denver Art Museum, Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and most recently, as Curator of Exhibitions for the Melton Gallery at the University of Central Oklahoma. She is a previous fellow of Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s Art Writing and Curatorial Fellowship and has written for various art publications including Art Focus, Art 365, and Art Discourse. Kyle is currently living in Portland, OR, working toward her Master’s degree in Critical Studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art.


SEASONS by Etel Adnan, Lebanese poet and painter, is a collection of prose poems - considered meditations - that blend together geography, climate, time, history, rage, memory and myth. For this discussion, we will be looking into section two of SEASONS which starts with clouds and ends at the sea.

"SEASONS seeks the universe within and beyond the spirit's changeable weather, finding everywhere its center." - Megan Pruiett

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Adnan tell a story through her prose? What narrative aspects of this section do you notice?
  2. What does it mean to write a book about seasons, but disregard borders (in space and time)? How does this section reflect a specific season or seasons? What imagery did you notice?
  3. How does SEASONS imagine new worlds? Did you find pockets hope, care or world-building within this section? If so where?
Access the Reading
Join the Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 957 9278 6007
Passcode: 091600

Monday, November 16th

6:00-7:00 pm pacific

Dismantling Systems of Oppression: Are Prisons Obsolete?

moderated by Kristin Derryberry

Moderator Bio:

Kristin Derryberry is a multimedia artist and writer based in Portland, Or. Her work focuses on critical horror studies, mental health, and post-internet art. Kristin is a second year dual candidate at Pacific Northwest College of Art getting her MA in Critical Studies and MFA in Visual Studies. She showed at the Lodge Gallery, The Glass Building, and Tiny Thumb gallery within the past year. She works within the range of video installation, illustration and minimal design.


This conversation takes a deeper look at Angela Davis’s “Are Prisons Obsolete?” to explore how we can practically implement abolition, putting theory into action. We will discuss the Introduction pages 9-19.

Discussion questions:

  1. Was this text your introduction to the concept of prison abolition?
  2. Has your understanding of abolition shifted since reading this text?
  3. What are some small ways we can implement abolition in our day to day lives?
  4. In the context of our current state of living, how can we avoid burnout while simultaneously making big moves to realize a more just world?”

Content Warning: Incarceration, racial violence, police violence

Wednesday, November 18th

6:00-7:00 pm pacific

Disability and Prison Abolition: A Discussion on Carceral Ableism

moderated by Carly Naughton

Moderator Bio:

Carly Naughton is a research-based, mixed-media artist and disability scholar living in Portland, OR. Her academic interests include crip theory, critical disability studies, mad studies, medical history, queer theory, fat studies, reproductive justice, and eugenic movements in the United States.


Abolition, of both police and prisons, has become an increasingly discussed topic in the past months. Despite this increased discussion of abolition, disability is rarely included in conversations about abolition and incarceration and even less so from a Critical Disability Studies lens. Similarly, Disability Studies has largely neglected to meaningfully engage with incarceration and abolition. This conversation will be rooted within disability studies and focused on the interactions between disability, incarceration, institutionalization, and capitalism. We will discuss Liat Ben-Moshe’s article, “Disabling Incarceration: Connecting Disability to Divergent Confinements in the USA”. If you prefer to listen rather than read, feel free to listen to the provided Rustbelt Abolition Radio Podcast: Carceral Ableism and Disability Justice, which interviews Ben-Moshe and Leroy Moore. There is also a helpful and concise list of terms on abolition and disability justice terms available at Abolition and Disability Justice. Discussion questions will be provided, but you are encouraged to bring your own questions as well. All levels of engagement are welcome.

Content Warning: Incarceration, institutionalization, ableist violence, and racial violence

Discussion Questions:

  1. What did you think of this piece?
  2. Did you learn anything you didn’t know that you found interesting or would like to share and discuss?
  3. Liat Ben-Moshe suggests “that incarceration should be perceived as a continuum, ranging from prisons and jails to institutions for the intellectually disabled, and psychiatric hospitals.” (Ben-Moshe, 1) Why does she conceptualize incarceration this way and what purpose does it serve?
  4. Liat Ben-Moshe writes,“On a theoretical level, the imperative to understand incarceration through both the prism of the prison but also that of the institution, as this article suggests, is crucial to understanding the underlying relations that legitimate confinement in a variety of settings. Such analysis also underscores the relation between penal and medical notions of danger, as they relate to both criminalization and medicalization and labeling.” (Ben-Moshe, 4) What is the relationship between what Ben-Moshe calls the institutional-industrial-complex and the prison-industrial complex? What are some examples of how this manifests? Feel free to consult the text or bring up outside examples.
  5. Why is it important to consider disability and institutionalization in conversations about abolition?

Graduate Symposium Fellowship

Each year one graduate student is selected as a Graduate Symposium Fellow to help coordinate student engagement and community outreach for the symposium.

This discussion series was organized and curated by this year’s Graduate Symposium Fellow madison hames.

madison hames is a trans poet and researcher living in Portland, OR. Their work engages with ecology, technology, and toxicity. You can read more about what they’re up to on their website.